OK, so those smartypants over at Akashic Books turned down what I thought was a brilliant idea for a short-story collection: Ventura County Noir. No matter. I can at least content myself with the new Orange County Noir. And I can’t think of two better people to focus on Los Angeles’ neighbor to the south than this volume’s editor, Rap Sheet contributor Gary Phillips, and author T. Jefferson Parker, whose latest novel, Iron River, should already be on everybody’s Best of 2010 thrillers list.
In his foreword to this anthology, Parker writes: “I first set foot in Orange County half a century ago. Our new Tustin tract home cost $21,000. The dads wore showcase flattops and skinny neckties ... Now look at it. How that Orange County became the one we see today is a tale of migration and war and race and economics ...”
Phillips approaches this arena as an outsider, somebody who was born in South Central L.A. on the same day that Disneyland opened in Anaheim. “When I was a kid ...,” explains Phillips, “what I knew about life behind the Orange County wall was nil. None of my relatives lived there, nor did my folks have friends in the area.”
In putting together Orange County Noir, Phillips (who also has another book due out soon: The Underbelly) seems to have pulled out all the stops on his organ, persuading some of the top names in the crime-writing trade (including Dick Lochte, Robert S. Levinson, Robert Ward, and Susan Straight) to contribute original stories that are all dark, and some of which are very funny.